Maurice Bardèche on What Is and Is Not “Fascism”
Introductory Note by Hadding Scott: The term fascism is problematic.
Before the rise of Hitler, and even before the rise of Mussolini, there was a concept of national-socialism. National-Socialism was a general term. Anne Morrow Lindbergh (wife of the aviator) used national-socialism as a general term as late as 1940 in her book, The Wave of the Future.
But because Hitler’s was by far the most famous movement to call itself national-socialist, the concept became specifically identified with his development of it, which includes certain ramifications of Darwinism that distinguish the German movement from its Italian analog.
Therefore, if our use of words were more logical, we should say that Fascism was the Italian form of national-socialism, instead of saying that National-Socialism was a type of fascism.
The name Fascism is rooted in specifically Italian history. On that basis alone, it seems odd to apply the term to any movement outside of Italy.
But what happened is this. Fascism became world-famous before many people heard about national-socialism. Consequently, just as Xerox, the preeminent maker of photocopy-machines, saw “xerox machine” and “xeroxes” become general terms for copiers and the copies that they produce, “fascism” (with a small f) superseded “national-socialism” as the general name for nationalist movements that guard the interests of workers.
Nowadays, when one wishes to refer to such a movement while avoiding resonance with the specific movements of Mussolini and Hitler, one can use the term “social-nationalist” — which is obviously just another way to say national-socialist.
Nonetheless, for better or worse, “fascism” remains prevalent as the general term for such movements. Instead of properly categorizing Fascism as Italian national-socialism we bizarrely categorize Hitler’s movement as “German fascism.”
This is very convenient for Communists, because, unlike “national-socialism,” which is descriptive, “fascism” has a meaning that is not readily apparent, and is thus easily misrepresented. (You will also notice that the descriptive term National-Socialism is rarely used even in regard to Hitler’s movement, replaced almost always by the nondescriptive “Nazism”: there is a purpose in this.)
If we cannot do away with this generalized use of “fascism,” we should at least insist that it be applied only to movements that Mussolini or Hitler would recognize as what they represent.
The problem that Maurice Bardèche identifies in this introduction to his 1961 book, Qu’est-ce que le fascisme? (What is fascism?), is the reckless and hypocritical use of even that misbegotten term, without regard for any reasonable definition.
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“Inquiry about Fascism”
From Qu’est-ce que le FASCISME? (1961)
I AM A FASCIST WRITER. One ought to thank me for my acquaintance: for it is, at least, one established fact in a debate where the elements are obfuscated.Nobody, in fact, admits to being fascist. Soviet Russia, which lives under single-party rule and a police-dictatorship, is not a fascist country; it is even, so it seems, the complete opposite. The Hungarian government that has tanks fire upon workers and tries strikers before a military tribunal is not a fascist government either. It merely defends the power of the people. A provisional government that employs terrorism to impose the will of a revolutionary faction on an entire country is not a fascist organization either; it is a movement of national liberation. Thus it is not the form of the institutions that characterizes fascism, but something else.
There is no more unanimity about the ends than about the means. If you defend capitalism, you are necessarily fascist, according to the Communists. But the common opinion does not agree with them. The United States, England, Adenauer’s Germany, are fascist only for representatives of the Soviet Union and their lackeys. Even in France where political crises have brought to power a kind of presidential rule (régime présidentiel), the man in the street shakes his head with disbelief when one explains to him that he lives in a fascist dictatorship. Thus, to heed respectfully the CEOs of the banks and major trusts is not enough to be convicted of fascism without further discussion.
This criterion that escapes us, however, one feels can be found eventually through some examples, if we have a resolute conscience. “There are some fascist countries,” exclaims the resolute conscience, “and you very well know which ones. The military dictatorships of Latin America, the countries where the politicians are only managers for fruit-juice vendors, Franco’s government in Spain, these are what we call fascism. The definition that you seek, derive it from your own analysis: a fascist regime is that which denies liberty to the people in order to maintain the privileges of a wealthy minority. Do not play games with words. Fascism is the combination of a method and a goal: it suppresses liberty, which is not blameworthy in itself, but it suppresses it in order to assure social inequality and poverty, and that is how we recognize it.”
There is only one objection to this definition, but it is embarrassing. It is that there is no fascist who is willing to recognize fascism in the military dictatorships of Latin America, in the fiefs of fruit-juice vendors, or even in Franco’s Spain, which, moreover, cannot honestly be equated with the preceding examples. Fascists refuse to recognize themselves in what the intellectuals, the newspapers, and the political parties call fascism. They go farther: they condemn, as their adversaries, these examples that are opposed to them. What then is this fascism in which we see everything other than the press, the radio, and the learned men of our time?
If I were one of a kind, this clarification would not be worth the effort. But a strange prodigy occurs: the fascist writer, the fascist intellectual, is nowhere to be found; the government that is willing to be taxed with fascism exists only at the antipodes, and it is as archaic as a Negro king. But on the other hand there are fascist groups and they do not hide it; there are young fascists and they proclaim it; there are fascist officers and one trembles at this discovery; finally there is a fascist spirit and above all there are thousands of persons who are fascist without knowing it, under another hat that they wear and that they regard with suspicion, of which fascism, as we conceive it and not as one describes it, would be their entire hope if one explained to them what it is. Behold the mirror that reflects our hearts: I want them to recognize themselves. Or that they know, at least, in what cause they are not our brothers. Even our enemies ought to know what they are fighting. The weather (le temps) that filled our sails has made us sail past the Cape of Lies. The Land of Lies recedes into the mist; twenty-year-old eyes no longer see it. And now, in the wind that is rising, it is no longer necessary to be afraid of words.
 Most likely referring to Fidel Castro. One of Bardèche’s chapters asks if Castro is a fascist.
 Charles de Gaulle, of course.
 In 1958 (three years before this publication) the Premier of Québec, Maurice Duplessis, was compared to a “Negro king” by André Laurendeau, meaning that Duplessis could maintain in Québec the 19th-century combination of extreme cultural conservatism (granting enormous influence to the Catholic Church) and laisser-faire economic policy, because forces outside of Québec kept Duplessis in power, much as a Negro king in Africa might be kept in power by the British and could do as he liked so long as he cooperated with the British on matters of importance to them. The period of Deplessis’s policies (1936-1959) is called la Grande Noirceur (the Great Darkness). When Bardèche refers to an archaic “Negro king,” it seems that he has in mind the backward rule of Maurice Duplessis, which was sometimes wrongly called fascist. Bardèche seems to say that Duplessis did not object to the label, even though it was inaccurate.
 In May 1958 a group of generals, supported by “committees of public safety,” seized control in some of the French colonies and in Corsica, and demanded that Charles de Gaulle take over the French government and stop the dissolution of the French Empire. De Gaulle had given them reason to believe that he supported their cause, but once in power, he did the opposite. These generals were called “fascist” by the Communists in France. There seems to be some ironic humor in Bardèche’s reference to the “discovery” of the “fascist officers,” since as Gaullistes they surely did not consider themselves fascist, any more than De Gaulle himself.
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Source: National-Socialist Worldview